Saturday, December 31, 2016

Telling the Story - NMAAHC

There are parts of our history that are too painful to tell but must be told so that younger generations can have a sense of who they are, where they're going and how they got here. In the Bible, the oral tradition was established; the Israelites told their stories every year of their exodus from Egypt at Passover.

The recitation of the Haggadah, a liturgy that describes in detail the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Haggadah is the fulfillment of the biblical obligation to recount to our children the story of the Exodus on the night of Passover.

In addition, they had items of significance in everyday living so that when a child asked, "What do these stones mean?" they could tell the story again. They could point to the stones as a memorial of how God delivered them over and over again. The stories remained fresh because they were always told.

The African American story hasn't always been told in depth, but with this museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) there's an opportunity for the story to be told to a broad audience with authenticity. The fact that this museum exists on a national scale is a story in itself as it was a long winding arduous road to NMAAHC.

The layout of the museum is such that you start from the bottom and work your way up - literally and figuratively. You start from slavery and travel to modern times. Slavery is a difficult truth and the facial expressions of patrons indicated such - no smiles, all twisted faces, pained expressions, brooding thoughts and maybe some tears. I personally wished that there was a weeping room, so I could just sit and cry. I'm still baffled by how a slave owner could rape his slaves, produce his children and could only see them as profit. Slavery was a time when the heart was turned to stone.

Jim Crow and Reconstruction took up another floor. Again, very painful. I saw a segregated train car and also Emmit Till's open casket. (BTW no pictures are allowed of the casket; if you get caught doing so you will be escorted out).

Then it was up to the Civil Rights Movement; I was particularly moved by the "Women of the Movement and learning about Gloria Richardson - who by all accounts seemed fearless because the injustices against her and her people were so wrong.

At this point, we broke for lunch at the Sweet Home Cafe. Cuisines are divided up by regions - The Agricultural South, The Creole Coast, The North States and The Western Range. I had the stuffed Rainbow Trout with Potato Salad from the North States and it was pretty good, though at that point I'm convinced anything would have tasted good as we were all starving at this point in time. This is part of the experience, so though a bit pricey it's worth it to eat at the cafe.

With more energy, the rest of the museum is more uplifting. The upper floors highlight African Americans' contributions to all aspects of society - music, dance, poetry, sports, style, language. I also took in a movie exhibit that asked the question - "What does it mean to be a Black Man?" The vignettes in response were poignant.

Some logistical items to consider - we were able to get tickets by getting walk-up tickets that are distributed daily as we had no luck getting tickets online. I parked at L'Enfant Plaza and paid $20.00 for the entire day. Then from the parking structure, it was about a 10-minute walk to the museum.

The stories of our histories need to be told; everyone should visit this museum so that the appetite is heightened for greater knowledge of the African American experience. I hope as families we share our histories openly and perhaps this museum can become a rite of passage for all. I was saddened and inspired by my visit and was glad that I got to go.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

This is 50 - A Letter To My Younger Self

Dear Nylse;

You've done all right for yourself; you really have. You have been blessed with a wonderful husband and four children; after putting in many years of hard work you are beginning to reap the rewards of having raised decent (actually better than decent) children with a husband who stands by your side. You are surrounded by love in the form of family and friends in many states and countries.

You had minimal expectations for your life - you just wanted to be happy. That seems like a low bar but that is pretty high because you've learned that happiness is fluid and is made up of many ingredients.

As you see your oldest daughter embarking on the next stage of her life, you think about when you were her age. Her generation communicates a whole lot better than yours did. They have the benefit of accessible knowledge well before they may need it. You're impressed with the way your daughter and her fiancee communicate. They ask and they listen and then they figure out the "we". You see them putting this into practice for little things and it bodes well for their future. Sometimes you wish you had mastered this sooner.

You've learned that communication determines the quality of your relationships; that it's central to relationships. You've learned that to outward appearances of some communication may appear awkward, difficult and tenuous,  but yet when you look at the quality and longevity of those relationships - there's something that's working in spite of what is seen in a moment. You've learned that an ideal may not always be attainable, but getting pretty close is good enough. As it relates to communication, the foundation was laid at home. You learned, "speak when you're spoken to, answer when you're called." You learned to respect each other but that greater respect automatically went to your parents. You learned how to determine a mood based on how something was said. You learned how to make your voice heard in a large setting - this you learned well for you have a loud voice that you have often worked to tone down.

Confidence is great (and sexy), but knowing how to communicate with the people in your life is important. It is not a one-time lesson but one you will need to relearn over and over again. Our communication shows evidence of so much that goes on internally - strive to be genuine, yet kind, authentic yet loving, truthful yet precise.  Since you have what may be perceived as a  problematic tone, let that be the opener to your deepest heartfelt conversations so that your hearers don't get stuck on how you're speaking but on what you're saying.

But about that loud voice, it's part of who you are - so embrace it and use it well. When others need a mic to be heard in a loud room, you don't. If you want to train or give presentations, your voice lends itself to that. Speaking with authority comes naturally to you - never shy away from this but also recognize your influence. Work with what you have and use it to the best of your ability. Don't make your voice small for others, for in doing so you shortchange yourself.

You have learned that love makes all the difference in the world. Because if love is the foundation, you are quick to forgive each other. You were never good at holding a grudge - too much energy to do so or you were lazy. Whatever the reason, I'm glad you don't hold grudges. Grudges lead to resentment, which leads to long-simmering anger, which can rear it's ugly head over the stupidest things. Try not to hold grudges; the only way to do that is to remember your foundation of love so that you can forgive quickly.

Life doesn't end at 50 or any magical age that you've placed in your mind, as a matter of fact, as you turn 50, you feel more hopeful. Though this year has been hard in ways that you could have never imagined, you're so glad you made it to another birthday. It was imprinted on your heart this year after your mother's passing that every day is a gift; every day is an opportunity to start anew - start new habits, start new careers, take on new opportunities, start new friendships. Take nothing or anyone for granted; unfortunately, it's very easy to do. Don't wait until someone is gone to appreciate them; show your appreciation in as many ways that you can, for as long as you can, while you have them.

You've learned in this half a century not to ever give up on your dreams - for just as disappointments come when we least expect them so do appointments, so does joy and so does fulfillment. You've learned that where there's life and breath there is hope.

None of what you have done or achieved was done in a vacuum; God was with you all the way and that is something you will continue to acknowledge. It humbles you and keeps you grateful. It is because of the foundation of God's word and your decision to follow Him that your life has unfolded in the manner it has.

Keep learning, keep laughing, and keep enjoying life.

Lots of Love;

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Wishing Wall

The Wishing Wall
Christmas is synonymous with peace, love, joy and fellowship. Christmas reminds us to be generous and kind. Christmas celebrates the good, the beautiful, the pure and the holy. Christmas is associated with nativity scenes, shepherds, the wise men and the Baby Jesus. What the Baby Jesus represents is Christmas and all of the good feelings that we wish to feel are embodied in Him. Never was a baby's birth so significant - it was the promise fulfilled of a long-awaited Messiah and over his lifetime this promise would play out. It was the beginning of everything good for mankind.

Some saw the promise and the fulfillment of that promise of the little baby in the manger, but many couldn't see it. Some were angry with his birth and tried to kill him, to no avail. But he was preserved and kept; his life was guided by a divine hand.

At Christmas, though many may not be religious they want the promise and the beauty of Christmas. The wishing wall at a local mall is new; it's where you take a moment to write your wishes with the hope that they're fulfilled at Christmas. This wall is inspiring yet sad. Some of the wishes were heart wrenching - "I wish for my brother to walk" and some were comedic - many wishing misfortune on the President-Elect. Many needed resources for basic necessities and some were wishing for jobs or college acceptances. There were also wishes for world peace and love. Of course, there were also wishes for finding a girlfriend or boyfriend. Bystanders were drawn to the wall - many took it all in and many left their wishes also.

A wish is a prayer, a desire, a hope. Many of these wishes won't be fulfilled though there is some release in anonymously expressing a wish on a wall. But I hope this isn't it for most of these wishers. I hope they have something more to cling to and hold on to. I hope at Christmas this year it's a start to knowing the Christ of Christmas - that the little baby in a manger was the Son of God, who grew up and was crucified for each of us. I hope they know that he's the only religious deity that died and rose again and in Him is where true hope resides because nothing is impossible with God. I hope they recognize the love that someone had for them and made the ultimate sacrifice. I hope they realize that Immanuel, the Messiah - God with us, is here with us at Christmas and every day of the year. And I hope some of those wishes on the wishing wall come to fruition.

A sampling of wishes

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 

 Hope and love come with Christmas and go with every other day of the year. 

What are you hoping for at Christmas this year?

My favorite version of the Christmas story is found in Luke 2.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Fun With Technology

With all the technological advances available today, our children have access to more information than we ever did. I don't necessarily see this as a problem since I view technology as a tool that can enhance life experiences while closely monitoring its usage. Here are some fun things I've discovered recently.

In a pinch, signatures on the iPhone can substitute for a note signed by a parent. Just text said note to your child and attach your signature. Easy peasy! Yes, I did this recently; yes it worked. No, it wasn't my idea but the Little One's.

I've had a pressure cooker since I got married 28 years ago; I believe it was a wedding gift. I've used it on and off throughout the years. I started using it recently but I wasn't happy with my outcomes. With a pressure cooker especially when making stews - you have to overseason to compensate for the water that is to be added. You also have to add the right amount of water if not everything is watery and bland. These are minor hurdles to overcome but I was out of practice. A pressure cooker is a working mom's dream - it cooks food quickly with minimal cleanup. That's when I discovered there are electrical pressure cookers on the market that are multifunctional. Well as life goes, I decided to buy an Instant Pot since someone on the internets mentioned that it was on sale. So I committed and boy am I happy! The right tools in the kitchen make preparing meals fun and right now I'm having fun and my family is not starving anymore. I've made steel cut oats, white rice, beef stew, curried chicken, turkey wings, broth which I then used to make rice, and soup. I'm still itching to do beans, quinoa, and cheesecake. Apparently, the instant pot was made for cheesecake - who knew?

I am part of a large family on all sides. So this year after our family reunion in Jamaica, a WhatsApp group was started and in this case, it has been one of the most refreshing things since we are literally spread across the globe. It's as if we never left - the conversations are rich and deep. We're a smart bunch and I'm grateful for the technology that keeps us talking ALL THE TIME.

Of course, it's hard to keep track of birthdays - so a family page was created using Shutterfly. It's the coolest thing because once members are entered, you'll always get an email telling you of an upcoming birthday or anniversary.

One last thing - Twitter is a great way to contact companies when you're dissatisfied or have a question - the response is much quicker than sending an email.

When I think of technological advances, I'm amazed by God because I'm sure none of this catches Him by surprise. After all, he made us, and knew exactly what our capabilities were. I hope you enjoy these finds as much as I did.

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth,and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. Then God blessed them...; Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! Genesis 1: 26, 27, 28, 31 [NLT]

How has technology enhanced your life?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Review - Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was her debut novel. I had heard this author's name and wanted to read her works but when I saw the eloquent tribute she left to Michelle Obama, I knew I had to delve into her work.

Purple Hibiscus is a story of zeal based on the Catholic religion. Zeal can be good or bad; in the case of Purple Hibiscus, it is horribly bad. In the name of Catholicism, the family is abused - physically and verbally by its leader - their father and husband. He is fanatically religious and a tyrant at home.It is the tale of domestic and spousal abuse in the name of religion, set in upper-class Nigeria.

A purple hibiscus is a hybrid and is rare - perhaps the elements around this tale are rare also as I never expected such brutality in this setting, and the trajectory of the story is unexpected.
But the hibiscus is also beautiful - so in spite of the abuse, there is a beautiful story that is told around family connection. The family yearns to be free from this tyranny and like the hibiscus, they eventually bloom and are free. But the road to freedom is heartbreaking.

After reading this book, I am more knowledgeable about Nigeria - its customs, its foods, and some of its traditions. The author has a gift for making the story come to life while searing your soul.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Daily Vitamins

Some habits start in childhood, wane over time and then are refreshed once you remember their value.

As a child, I learned the importance of taking vitamins daily. If I scratch my head and think really hard the one thing my parents always made us take was Cod Liver Oil. Every morning we got a spoonful and washed it down with juice. Of course back then, living in the islands we got a fair amount of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis so the focus was more on diet than on vitamins. When I moved to the States I became more aware of multivitamins and their various forms - capsules, chewable, pills, etc.

There's a mantra that governs my life - 'when you know better, do better', so of course when I had my children and we were more informed, I made sure to give my children vitamins every day especially when they were younger. I tried to give them cod liver oil also, but I was not as successful as my parents. (That habit bit the dust!)

As my children have grown and moved on, I am now in a different stage of my life and once more, I am keenly aware of the importance of vitamins. Every day I make a green smoothie and take a litany of vitamins and supplements. At this stage, I won't stop because I want to take the best care of my body that I can and I've seen what happens when I don't take my vitamins.

In the quiet of the morning, as I'm taking my vitamins I am reminded of two things:

  1. The same vigilance that I give to the physical, I should give to the spiritual.
  2. I should put on God's vitamins daily - the armor of God.

On a daily basis I take - vitamin D3, vitamin E, magnesium, a women's multivitamin, glucosamine, fish oil and a hair and skin chewable with my green juice that usually contains spirulina, flaxseed, cucumber, kale or spinach, banana, and blueberries. This seems like a huge haul, but over time I have realized that this combination works for me.

On a daily basis I also spend time in prayer and reading so that I can put on - truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, and salvation all likened to various parts of a warrior's armor. Again, this works for me; I am equipped to handle what comes my way.

In both of these instances, the preparation and ingestion take time; they are intentional and focused. When you stop preparing and ingesting you see detrimental effects - your skin is dull, your hair falls out, you feel more fatigued. In the spiritual world - you're not spiritually discerning, you don't remember scripture, you're not loving, you're easily manipulated.

Vitamins are essential for growth and nutrition; taking the right amounts allows your body to maximize its potential. As you make a habit of taking care of your physical body, do the same for your spiritual body.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle, you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17 [NLT]

Physical, spiritual or both - what vitamins are you taking daily?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei translated means Lamb of God and is first used in the New Testament - John 1:29, 36

Webster defines Agnus Dei as:

1: a liturgical prayer addressed to Christ as Savior
2: an image of a lamb often with a halo and a banner and cross used as a symbol of Christ

When I first heard this song I was awestruck by its beauty; its ability to elevate my spirit and its worshipfulness. This song seems to be played often at Christmas - but I could listen to it throughout the year.

This song is 10 minutes long, but in heaven, that's all we'll be doing - singing Hallelujah all day and it will seem like nothing.

Listen to this sound and be transported to a heavenly mode.

What other songs do you like to hear at Christmas?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fill My Cup, Lord

Courtesy of Solo Cup
When I was growing up there was a song that we sang that went something like this:

Like the woman at the well I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy
But then I heard my Savior speaking
Draw from my well that never shall run dry.

Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul
Bread of heaven feed me 'til I want no more
Here's my cup fill it up and make me whole.

Every time I heard that song, even as a youngster I could relate to it. At the age of 8, I knew I wanted Jesus to fill me up and since then, recognizing that so many are seeking, I've tried to let my light shine because the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few.

The harvest is plenty - your co-worker craves that peace you display; they notice how you handle problems; they notice that you don't do "Happy Hour" but yet you're happy.
The harvest is plenty - to that child in your classroom, you're the kindest person he has in his life.
The harvest is plenty - that homeless couple could use a warm blanket
The harvest is plenty - the young lady who finds herself pregnant and needs someone to be there for her.
The harvest is plenty - that neighbor who's talkative but seems to always want to hear more.
The harvest is plenty - that young lady who sat next to you on the subway who seemed really tired.
The harvest is plenty - that family at the bus stop waiting for a bus that's not showing up.
The harvest is plenty - those that are hurting because of systemic and institutional racism.
The harvest is plenty and they're all walking around with cups that need to be filled.

As we are filled, let's go out and be Jesus to others so that they can come to know Jesus. Let's pour into their lives. As believers, we have what the woman at the well and so many today are looking for. Let's not get bogged down by the cares of this world to the point where we are blind to the needs around us. Let's not let seeds of doubt prevent us from sharing or living the way Christ wants us to live.

If one were to describe my life they'd say it's uneventful - perhaps even boring. But my response is always that line from a Winans song that goes like this, "it's really no goodness of my own, no, but it's by the grace of God that I've been kept all this time." You don't need to have a "dramatic" change to make a difference in someone's life. I tell my story through living life the way Christ would have me live, so that I can be a bright light.

As a Christian, your life is impactful because you are a new creation in Christ; what He's done in you can't be hidden under a bush.

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9: 35-38 [NLT]

Do you know the good news of salvation? How do you share your story?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review - Homegoing

"History is storytelling. So when you study history you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice can come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect picture." (Yaw - Homegoing)

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the story of the suppressed voices of Colonialism, Slavery, and Racism from the coasts of Ghana to America. It spans a period of approximately 300 years with stories told through the eyes of members of each generation. The story starts in Ghana where we learn about tribal practices - polygamy, war, prisoners of war and the initial slave trade. To bring this home there are two sisters who anchor this story: Effia from the Asante tribe who is betrothed to a white slave trader in Ghana and her half sister Essi from the Fante tribe who was captured and sold into American Slavery.

Homegoing is a collection of atrocities borne out of institutions that no longer cared for humans, where greed and pride are what's important. It highlights the strength, resolve and unfortunately the resignation of humans when dealing with horrible circumstances.

Though the underlying thread is slavery - the effects of slavery in America portrayed in Homegoing are more heart-wrenching than those from Ghana. Slavery in America an institution based on white supremacy, that lasted too long, with unimaginable cruelty, led to ramifications that have never been addressed -  the convict leasing system, which was an outgrowth of Jim Crow, which led to the Great Migration, which led heroin in Harlem, which led to the war on drugs, which led to the crack epidemic, which led to mass incarceration. All of these are touched on in Homegoing.

With each person's story in Homegoing, the legacies and ramifications of slavery in both continents are addressed. Near the end of this book, I felt like it became an autobiography and some of the stories lose their richness.

There is a family tree at the beginning of the book which I referred to as I started each chapter; this was helpful as it can become hard to keep track of characters over such large periods of time

For the breadth of time that Homegoing covers, it is done well and deeply impactful.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Think It Not Strange

I once stubbed my toe in my backyard. It was on a raised piece of concrete that I did not see but it was always there. I stubbed my toe so hard, I think I saw stars. I had to take several deep breaths to regroup; the pain was intense.

As I dealt with the pain, it reminded me of another type of suffering we go through - the trials and tribulations of life: taking a stand for the right thing and being alienated, the car not starting, insufficient funds, dealing with tough problems at work, dealing with difficult people, poor health. There are tons of trials in this life that happen to each of us, sometimes through no fault of our own.

That pain gave me clarity (and made me write this post). Though it seemed intense initially, over time it subsided and I learned to deal with the pain until it passed. Pain does not last forever but in the moment it felt like an eternity.

The English word 'pain' probably comes from Old French (peine), Latin (poena - meaning punishment pain), or Ancient Greek (poine - a word more related to penalty), or a combination of all three. Pain is usually an indicator that something may be wrong and in medical parlance it can be throbbing, chronic, acute, steady, pinching, etc.
As it related to my toe, I could have some degree of solace because I knew it would eventually subside and it did; that's the equivalent of accepting and rejoicing in your suffering.

The pain due to suffering because it's part of life is no different; suffering because of who we are as Christians is almost to be expected.
First, it's not strange. So we should stop questioning why things happen to us.
Second, trials make us stronger; they make us think differently, they make us resourceful.
Thirdly, they ultimately draw us closer to God.

The pain eventually subsided, just like most trials and I was wiser for the experience. I am now keenly aware of that rise in the concrete and will do all I can to never stub my toe again. But it just may happen again, and if it does I am now better prepared. Like the pain from a stubbed toe, your fiery trial won't last forever. It may seem intense as you're going through, it will force you to stop and breathe and it will eventually end.

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.  

Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 
If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 
But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 1Peter 4:12-16 [NLT]

How do you handle the fiery trials in your life?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

O Foolish Galatians

I recently completed a study of the book of Galatians with a group of women that I have great fellowship with. Galatians is a short book but it packs a much-needed punch. Every time I study the Word whether individually or with a group I am amazed at the new insights gained. But that's the premise of God's Word - it's never stale and will do what it is supposed to do.

The Galatians were confused by who or what to believe  - the Judaizers or Christ. The letter to the Galatians eliminated this confusion. Paul wrote this letter to lovingly correct while, at some points, he spoke very sternly to get the truth across.

After choosing to follow Christ, the Galatians were contemplating going back to a way that could not keep or sustain them as it relied solely on human effort. The book of Galatians is a declaration of independence from legalism. Legalism is following all the rules and hoping that in doing so it will get you to heaven. It's following the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. The Law as laid out in the Old Testament is very detailed and has a rule for everything; basically, there is no way one could obey all the laws. But many tried. Failure to follow one part of the Law is a failure in following the entire Law. If your salvation depends on what you do, then we are hopeless. The Law is incomplete in that it cannot save anyone; it could only reveal your unrighteousness.

The Judaizers accepted the Gospel but claimed that no Gentile could be a Christian without first becoming a Jew by submitting to Jewish rites in particular circumcision. The doctrine of the Judaizers was a mixture of grace (through Christ) and works (through the keeping of the Law). This false doctrine was dealt with in Acts 15 and strongly condemned in the book of Galatians []. If you think about this statement, you'd realize how ridiculous it was but it held great sway at that time. False doctrine is often enticing because it has a grain of truth intertwined in it.

Because the Galatians were headed down the wrong path, Paul spoke harshly to them to get their attention and to help them realize the ramifications of their disbelief and confusion. This was literally a matter of life or death; freedom or bondage. It was the equivalent of a loving parent speaking sternly to a child; the parent speaks from a vantage point the child does not possess.

O Foolish Galatians - that's a phrase that will get anyone's attention. Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Galatians 3:1 [NLT] Strong words that make the case for faith to accept God's grace. Strong words that should clear up any confusion on the Galatians part.
Strong words that were spoken in love.

Chapter 3 is pivotal because after this seemingly harsh statement Paul used logic and wisdom to show the Galatians (and us) why following Christ was infinitely better than trying to keep all aspects of the Law - Christ did what the Law could not do in that He died for us to make us righteous. So instead of trusting in themselves they would have to trust in God and believe that He truly died for them; that they were indeed recipients of God's grace and that it was available to them through faith. This brought freedom and unity in Christ. Paul then encouraged them to exercise their faith in daily practical living. Christianity never remains in the spirit realm - it can be applied to every aspect of our life and this is how Paul closes this book. We are free from legalism, we are free to love, we are to free to walk in the Spirit. Freedom in Christ will yield fruit and maturity; it won't always be easy but it will be rewarding.

The next time you become misguided in your beliefs like the Galatians did - go back to the Word; be open to being rebuked by the Spirit or a close spiritual mentor in your life and then make the change so that you can impact others for the kingdom and live as Christ would have you live.

What have you studied recently? What insights have you gained? How will you apply it to your life? Are you now interested in the book of Galatians?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review - Water For Elephants

I've returned with a vengeance to reading on a regular basis as it's enjoyable and provides a great escape. I was at the library, looking for one book and ended up leaving with five and Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen was one of them. I had no intention of picking this up initially but it was in the "Book Club" section; I've always wanted to be a member of a book club. I thought if this was selected for a book club which meant it produced great discussion, then it was good enough for me.

This book did not disappoint. Essentially it's a book about animals while working at a circus. This was a whole new world for me, but the story is told from the point of Jacob Jankowski who is now 93 in an assisted living facility. After a traumatic life event at 23, he finds himself at the circus while trying to find himself. So from this vantage point, it is understandable as the character and the reader learn the ways of the circus. It's also a story about animal behavior. Rosie the Elephant is almost human in how she is portrayed and it isn't a stretch to imagine her feelings dealing with the ringmaster and others. This is a well-written story with well-defined characters set in post-depression America.

But ultimately this is a story of love, that encompasses domestic violence, poverty, and animal rights; and finding yourself while being thrown into unexpected circumstances.
If you're an animal lover - the story line will appeal to you. Even if you're not, the overriding story reinforces that love always wins.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rich Towards God; Blessed to be a Blessing

Recently my husband and I found this authentic South American restaurant in Scottsdale Arizona. We were on a weekend getaway trip that I won from being on a talk show. We knew the restaurant was authentic because they had plantain chips on the table. We immediately gobbled them up and another platter was brought out. (BTW plantain is pronounced plan tin - not plan tain....think of how you pronounce fountain the next time you're tempted to overemphasize the last syllable.)
As we were gobbling and perusing the menu, I noticed the following verse printed on the menu - When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 [NLT] I guess the rapid rate at which we gobbled up the plantain chips brought the owner over and we got to talking.

I mentioned that this was one of my favorite verses and he proceeded to share his story with us: He grew up in a South American country where his parents were missionaries. He had a fishery business and was very successful and wealthy. He used his wealth to fight for people who were being taken advantage of, but the government was not pleased and all of his assets were seized by the government. He had nothing and had to leave the country. He ended up in Arizona with a relative and was able to start the restaurant and has seen the faithfulness of God. But what he said that struck me was, "I was doing everything right, yet God allowed everything to be taken away from me. And I have seen how God was with me in the fire and I was not burned." He implied that he needed to be humbled and going through loss and restoration was indeed humbling.

For the past month or more there's been a constant theme in the messages I've heard from various pulpits - God wants to bless us, blessings encompass more than money, Christians are confused about how to approach wealth especially if you don't have it, and there is a  responsibility that comes along with blessings including wealth.

Luke 12:13-21 tells the parable of the rich fool. The fool is identified as rich - we don't know how he came about his wealth - whether by birth, work, or any other attribute but he was rich and clearly his priorities revolved around his wealth over anything else. In the parable God gave a warning to the rich fool - Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 [NLT]

We get comfortable with our blessings and sometimes think that nothing bad will happen to us because we're blessed. But maybe God wants to test us to see where our heart lies - like Job, like the restaurant owner we met. In Luke 18 God told the rich ruler it's hard for the rich to enter into heaven; it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter into heaven. Which simply means we can get attached to our possessions and it is much easier for the rich to do so since they have more possessions. They may even think it's because of what they've done instead what God has allowed for them.

Being rich materially requires constant submission to the Holy Spirit so our hearts and attitudes are always right. Don't you love getting to know a person and then realizing that they are wealthy beyond anything you can imagine? I do. These people don't broadcast their wealth materially, nor are they pompous. But in getting to know them you see that they are generous with their time and resources and then as an added bonus you see their material blessings. Being wealthy with material goods is like an added bonus which means as a Christian you are already blessed.

Live like Christ wants you to live. Affluence lends itself to generosity, but we're not all affluent and yet we can still be a blessing to others. The church in Macedonia was very poor, but they were filled with abundant joy which overflowed in rich generosity. Their priority was how they could best serve the Lord unconditionally. In so doing they gave more than they had so that they could help those who needed their help. So great was their desire to serve Christ that they would not allow their economic situation to keep them from being involved in the Lord's work (Waldrop 1984:38).

Sometimes the wealth comes in visible portions while here on earth, sometimes invisible, but we are all blessed in some way. More exciting than that is when we get to heaven we will all know the abundance of the Lord in his fullness. No longer encumbered with this world's cares and responsibility and in a place that is more lavish than we can imagine, it's where we belong. It's why we are so dissatisfied at times with our earthly blessings and desire more.

 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.  And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? Luke 16:8-10[NLT]

None of this negates financial planning, making wise financial choices, etc. but for a Christian, it's about your most important priority - being rich towards God so that we can be a blessing to others. Let's not get hung up on material wealth but recognize our blessings because of what Christ has done for us. Let's use what he has done for us as a springboard to reap greater blessings for the Kingdom.

Are you a blessing to others? Are you rich towards God?

Friday, November 11, 2016

What the Outcome of this Election Taught ME

I was too vested in the outcome of this election; I wanted to be right as to why a different outcome made more sense, but it doesn't matter today.

This election made me realize that I took my eye off the goal; I was distracted by worldly endeavors; I was in and of the world. To be in the world is to be aware of what's going on around you; not oblivious. To be of the world is to participate in its processes as if those processes bear great weight in your life. It's easier to trust and exhibit faith when we can wrap our minds around it; when it's in line with our desires; when it's comfortable and life is good.

This election result forces me to realize that my faith will have to grow. That my faith may be tested out loud. That I'll truly have to embody the characteristics of Christ and love my enemies and bless them that curse me; that I will have to display a spirit of meekness and gentleness as I navigate what's ahead; that I should be a reconciler. The only way I can do all of this is through love. Yet it's not easy.
The Bible says - above all else, love. We are also encouraged not to grow weary in doing good.

You know how brands want bloggers to be influencers - yet it often feels so weird, especially if we've never used that brand? As an influencer, you have to use your blog and write a post that highlights the benefit of using that brand. As a result, there are benefits in store for you though it varies from brand to brand.

As Christians, we are called to be influencers for Christ. We are to let our light shine so people can see Christ in us. Our lives, actions, thoughts and everything else should be so different that others say, "I want what she has." Unfortunately, sometimes no one can tell the difference and this election highlighted that. This election underscored the divisions we have even within the body of Christ and how even Christians aren't gap-closers.

The Lord knew that this would be a complex and complicated task - being a Christian is not easy. Above all else, we are to love. Though the result of this election stuns us, it doesn't stun God - for He is all-knowing.

Have you ever studied so hard for a test, considered all variables thought you were prepared yet were devastated by your results because you didn't score well? That's how I felt about the election results.

However, this election result is the wake-up call we all needed because it will make us more vigilant and diligent about how we live; as Christians may it force us to rejuvenate our relationship with the One who holds everything in His hand.

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. Galatians 5:25, 26 [NLT]

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6: 9,10 [NLT]

Does this serve as a wake-up call for you also?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Book Review - Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue resonated with me to a certain degree because it amplifies the immigrant experience of a family from Cameroon. I picked this book up and could not put it down as it captured my imagination from beginning to end. At one point, I had to know how it was going to end so I read the last 2 pages so I wouldn't be held in suspense anymore.

Basically, this book builds on the so call American Dream that many in a foreign land hear;  when they get here realize that dreams can be dashed and revived and reshaped over a long period of time. It is the story of Jendi and Neni Jonga - a husband and wife with their young family who made it to American soil.

As is the case with many, he came first, worked hard and eventually sent for her. Working hard is an understatement because he has worked menial jobs in order to save this money. He also has a cousin, who has done well - he is a lawyer and constantly looks out for Jendi. It is because of his cousin, Winston, that Jendi finds himself interviewing to be a chauffeur for a Wall Street Executive - Mr. Clark. He gets the job and making thirty-five thousand a year means he has hit the jackpot and finally arrived. This story takes place during the recent recession of 2009, so along with everyone else he loses what he has worked so hard for. Then the story takes a shift and we see how dreams do shift and can be realized anywhere.

As dreams shift we get an up close view of what this looks like in one marriage - some of it is ugly. I love the intricacies and intimacies in the way the story is told. I love seeing the inner workings of this couple's marriage as they handle all of this stress and I love the description of the Cameroon way of life in America - the holding on to traditions by finding a community of people similar to you, cooking traditional foods and inviting others to partake.

This is a tale of the American Dream intertwined with the Immigrant experience of becoming legal or getting your papers in a foreign land. This book shows how what used to be relatively easy has become quite difficult and the toll it can take.

This book is simultaneously educational and entertaining.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Book Review - I'm Judging You

I was pleasantly surprised to find I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi in a local library. I follow Awesomely Luvvie's blog and knew she was writing this book, so when I saw it, I grabbed it and started reading immediately

What drew me to her blog is her humorous point of view in a way that is familiar to me. She calls herself a wacky wordsmith, but her wackiness and way with words were something I grew up with. So when I saw how she expressed herself on a variety of topics I kept reading. As an example here's a sentence from one of my favorite chapters - "I called good sense and asked if it was coming back soon and it told me not to hold my breath."

This book is a collection of essays, written in a Luvviesque style that runs the gamut from the superficial to the serious. She expounds on Relationships, Racism, Religion, Immigration & Assimilation, Body Image, Social Media and Fame and tells you how to find your "act right!"

Because that's the whole point of the book - you're being judged because you have no behavior - so get some, by reading this manual. After reading this book you'll walk away with more sense and more laughs. It's conventional wisdom or common sense (which is not so common) wrapped in humor and some strong language.

We all need to be better, so pick up this book.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Notes From My Daughter - Rushing Won't Make You Ready

Occasional notes from my second daughter. I never know what to expect when she writes but I am always blown away. Did this child come from me? Read on!
Hi friends. Welcome back to my random contributions on my mom's blog. Earlier this week I found an old notebook from 3rd grade and might I say it was the best laugh I've had in a while. In honor of my 6-year-old writing dreams I've decided to make a list of 5 things I've learned (because 23 and  2+3=5) this past year that can be applied to any reader.

1. Rushing won't make you ready: Matter of fact, rushing leads to repeating. Because most of my life has been accelerated outside of my control (i.e: being 6 years old in the 3rd grade) my goals have often been informed by what I thought others expected of me and not necessarily what I wanted for myself. For me the golden age of which I should have had my life together was 22 (6 years after graduating high school), so when my birthday came last year and I realized my life was not what I expected it to be, plus the overwhelming nothingness that occurs after graduating college, I went into a bit of a depression. While a lot of people met me with support, many people wanted to rush me through this process. I understood their intentions but I had to protect myself by being present. I could not, and still can't rush the timeline of my growth if I wish for that growth to be sustainable.

2. God's voice overrides any sound advice: This one is self-explanatory but I'm reinforcing it for anyone who struggles with courage. Second-guessing is the first step to confusion. Never stop seeking God's voice; it is the clearest guide for your entire life. If His instructions are repeated, follow them. If his answers are unclear, ask more questions. But a hunger for an abundant God should never be fed by anyone else but God. I've had to question this year, "Do I really care what God wants for my life?" When I'm unsure, I think about my commitment to Him and His to me. It's not enough to be a "good person" who does "good things". It's best to be God's, no matter where He has you.

3. 75% of the people you dislike love God and God loves 100% of them back: My mom and I had a conversation yesterday in which I talked about driving in LA. "I'm a good driver, it's just annoying that I constantly have to be a good driver in the midst of terrible ones." Life isn't linear, it doesn't happen in a vacuum of pure joy, and it surely doesn't occur in the midst of perfect people. Just because challenges arise doesn't mean that all the growth you've experienced has been thrown out the window. Quite frankly everyone's obsession with being a "healthy" person these days is kind of funny to me because their endurance can be so low (mine included). Yes, remove toxic people from your life but don't expect the people you're left with to be perfect. Don't expect the new healthy circle you attained to exist without challenges. Idealism is not healthy. Also, it's ok to address your own toxicity which leads me to the next point.

4. You can't run away from yourself: God is Alpha and Omega, here from beginning to end. He's is eternal. You are not (yet), but for as long as you are here, you will always be with you, from your beginning to your end. God is growing you and in that growth, you must be an active participant. The partnership of God's being and your being is a progressive one. Every time you run away from Him you stop the process, just as every time you run away from yourself. There is some solace in knowing that God would never run away from you; that His covenant and His choice are one in the same, but we cannot just settle for this. It's a beautiful thing to face yourself in order to see just who God is in your life.

5. Celebration is more than praise: Humans forget. Laughing at my old journal this week was wonderful because it showed I've been consistently Gabrielle Nicole Miller all of my life, even when I forgot who I was. The previous point was about mindfulness, this one is about remembering. All celebration and gratitude really are, is choosing to focus on memories of goodness. Goodness has happened over a series of time and will happen again in seasons to come. It's our mental incentive to keep going. It reminds us that there is more. More than we can imagine even though we try to imagine accurately every day. It's a reminder of how small life is and how incredible life is. Celebrating yourself, others, accomplishments, God, etc. is key to building a lifestyle that has no need to rush because you understand that every season brings it's fruits even if you don't see them yet.

I hope you all enjoyed my reflections. If you can relate please comment below and let me know which point really stuck with you. Lastly, thank you all for being on this journey of growth with me. I've been writing on my mom's blog for at least 4 years now and the community here is always a blessing :) And thank you, mom, for bringing me into this world on this day 23 years ago.

Marriage Ups and Downs

It seems at a certain point everyone wants to be married but once married, marriage doesn't live up to their expectations. Could it be that we have warped expectations around marriage? It seems our experiences, culture and fantasy fuel what we think marriage should look like. Once we put "should" in there we're in for a whole boatload of disappointment.

Marriage in its simplest form is two people - man and woman, who make a commitment to each other that no matter what, they will stick together. That's what you mean when you say your vows which try to encapsulate the spectrum of most human experiences. It doesn't mean that the good feelings will always flow, or that you'll always think kindly towards each other. Living with each other can bring out the best and worst in each other, but ultimately love wins and we are better for it.

So here's what I mean - as a couple we have been dealing with a couple of things recently - grief and aging bodies (you know, things change as you get older but you learn to adjust). Grief doesn't help any of this as a matter of fact because we grieve differently we may feel temporarily isolated from each other.

But (literally) at the end of the day - we're still here and it's because of the commitment we have to each other. We may be hurt by each other but we forgive and move on. We may feel lonely, but one person in a marriage can't be everything to the next person - so we look up. You learn to talk and communicate the best you can. You also learn when to be quiet but still be there. However, the longer you are with someone you learn how to navigate the rough and the smooth rides together.

Love covers a multitude of sins has taken on new meaning recently. To personalize it - I am a multitude of sins - a multitude. But I'm a sinner saved by grace. So my husband keeps loving me, in spite of everything I do or don't do and I do the same for him.

As my good friend/blogger, Slimwavy says - "Make no mistake -- marriage is not for dummies. It is not for sissies, wimps, and punks either. It is not for the flighty or the easily distracted. Only those who respect the long haul -- and all that it brings -- will survive. But the funny thing about survival -- the marriage actually gets sweeter with time. But both members of the couple have to be willing to stick around, committed to one another to add the sugar."

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 

We are sticking around and adding the sugar.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Grace and Mercy

Have you ever heard the expression - "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them" that's attributed to Maya Angelou? I have great respect for Maya Angelou but I've often wondered about the context of this expression.

This expression is multi-faceted in that everyone that you meet won't be a part of your life - so the first time you show me who you are, you show me who you are. I may like it or hate it - but it is who you are. If we never have further interactions, good or bad it's fine. If we have additional interactions, depending on what I see, I must rely on God's grace and mercy so that our interactions aren't negative. Interactions may eventually lead to a relationship; this has more of a chance of happening if I view you in a positive light. If we're a family I may not have a choice and may have to deal with you regardless.

In order to know what you're seeing you have to know who you are - some of us only see the good and some only see the bad and then some of us are realistic. Particularly in relationships, people may become jaded and not see a person for who they are even though their actions indicate otherwise.

People change; people change drastically for better or worse; people change incrementally or have total character changes; people change all the time. The person I was 10 years ago is not the person I am today and I would hate for someone to treat me today the way I was yesterday. It's almost like a parent choosing to treat a child like he is 10 years old even though he's 30.

Many people throw this phrase out as a way to be unforgiving or to place themselves on a pedestal.

I guess the real question is, once you believe them, what do you do with this belief? 

I believe in grace and mercy; I believe in bestowing it to others because I've been a recipient of it.
Grace is defined as divine love and protection bestowed freely on people; the state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God; an excellence or power granted by God; a special favor.
Mercy is defined as compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency; a disposition to be kind and forgiving; something for which to be thankful; a blessing.

In our society, we're not big on forgiveness. We say it but we don't live it. If a person was imprisoned and he is reformed he/she has the hardest time being accepted. We don't focus on rehabilitation and reformation but on disposal.

We are all fallen people, but God can change any life and turn it around for His glory. We've seen it in the Bible in the case of Paul, but I've also seen many instances of this in my life. I know people that used to smoke or drink and now they don't. One particular person attributes it to God drastically removing the desire for cigarettes and since that day he's never smoked. Like Paul, your passions were channeled in the wrong direction. God can and does change lives, even ours. It's up to us to believe this and treat new creations as new creations.

I want my life to be overflowing with grace and mercy towards others even if I'm sometimes hurt by it. I want to be a lightning rod to affect change in others. I want the Light that is in me be a bright light to all. I don't ever want to write people off or have this as a standard way of operating. I believe in all of this that God has and will guide and give me discernment so that I know how to interact with whomever I come in contact with.

As Christians, we are recipients of God's grace and mercy; may we bestow these gifts to others also. When people show you who they are, but allow for the possibility of change.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Ephesians 2:4-5

How often do you grant grace and mercy to others? Pray that God would give you opportunities to increase in this area.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Life Happens

Ironically, around the time I booked my flight to go to NY was the day my friend found out about her dad's cancer diagnosis. I was hemming and hawing about booking my trip and was having a pretty emotional morning - one minute laughing, the next tears running down my face - all because I was thinking of Mummy and what I would be facing in NY.

So she saw me crying that day and then when she heard the news regarding her Dad, the tables were flipped. We both thought it no coincidence that we were together for the bulk of that day.

Comfort those wherewith you have been comforted....these words keep coming back to me now.

I find myself looking at things through a new lens - a lens of greater empathy due to the loss of a parent; a lens of dealing with medical staff at this difficult time; a lens of trying to keep your wits about you when everything seems to be going wrong.

Comfort those....

I always feel inadequate yet I've been able to share just the tiniest bit of information that may be helpful. For example, you can appeal a discharge since when you are being discharged from a hospital it should be what is considered a safe discharge. That there are agencies and programs that exist so that you can get long-term care at home for elderly or ill parents. That taking care of a sick parent at home is not just a physical endeavor but an emotional one as well. That the social work team at a hospital is very important as they provide beneficial information outside of what is provided by medical staff.

Comfort those....

I may be in some sort of fog right now navigating my way out; but as I do, I'll remember that I'm not in this alone; that I'm not comfortless and even now I can help and encourage others.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 [NLT]

Do you need comfort? Are you making yourself available to comfort others?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mornings With Children

It seems that no matter how much you plan, organize and strategize mornings with children can sometimes be chaotic. Since the Little One missed a week of school she has had to make up a boatload of schoolwork. (BTW, what's the point of missing school due to an excused absence and still having to make up all the work? Isn't that why it was excused?! rant over).

On Friday she found out that she had to do a project in a weekend that everyone in the class had at least two weeks to do. She decided that she would tackle this project and get it done. I don't know if you know, but 8th-grade work nowadays is not like when you and I were in school. They're expected to know how to use technology well and incorporate into their assignments.  She's done more PowerPoint's at 13 than I did at 20. What was a PowerPoint back then?! (Second rant over.) Of course, there's always the Mac vs PC argument, and this teacher wanted the assignment completed in Keynote which is the Mac version of PowerPoint. Well, we're not a Mac house, so that's that. Anyhow she does the Keynote part of the project on her phone very tediously and eventually gets frustrated. The first part was to write a 600-word report.

This morning she wakes up and realizes that there is a capability in PowerPoint to add a voice recording, so she attempts to complete the presentation this morning. Let me add the presentation was completed but part of the assignment was to record an interview as part of the presentation. (As I type this, this all seems a bit much for one weekend.) So she was going to record the interview this morning, This recording took at least 5 minutes. She did it once, she did it twice, she even attempted it a third time but it would not work. Each time she played back the presentation the recording was not included.

It is now 7:50 and we must leave because school starts at 8. She eats breakfast in the car as I drive to school.

She is so sad as she gets to school. She asks, "Why do I miss her so much?" She is just a mess and I pray with her and let her know that she can take her time. We hug for a while until she eventually regroups. She eventually gets out of the car, and I continue to pray as I make my way home.

Even without the specter of grief, mornings can be crazy. I know that she has to go through this and I'll do my best to continue to guide, support and comfort her. Sometimes in spite of our best efforts, things fall apart in the morning. Laundry is misplaced or worse no clean underwear; can't find a shoe or a book that's needed that day;  lunch is forgotten;  homework did not make it to the book bag. There's so much that can go wrong.

As a mother I've learned to take it easy, because unfortunately yelling or making empty threats just does not all. Also, if I wake up early before all this mayhem, I'm better equipped to deal with it. Thankfully, this is not every day or even most days.

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jeremiah 31:3[NLT]
I hope tomorrow brings a better morning.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

See You at the Pole

I hate gimmicks. When I initially heard about See You at the Pole I thought it was a gimmick to get students to pray at their (public) schools. Over the years, on this day I would sometimes encourage my children to participate by dropping them off extra early and waiting around to see what would happen. Usually, it was nothing.

I've been in this weird place recently and I'm sure a lot of it has to do with my mother's death. I feel irritable and really have no patience for nonsense; if this was the case before, it's worse now. Life is precious and it's too short to waste on foolishness. I'm irritable because I think they are things that I need to say but struggle with how to say them; how to make them palatable for the hearer. In all of my rantings and ravings (if you wish to call them that) I want to be heard. Perhaps I've been feeling this way with God also, as my prayer time has taken a nosedive. If I do pray these days, it's simply because I'm disciplined. Sometimes discipline carries you when your heart can't. But I also know He's a loving God and understands everything about me. Ironically, it would seem that I should be praying more now, but I'm not.

The Little One said she wanted to participate in Pray at the Pole at her school. So we woke up extra early and got her there. As I was about to drive off, this thought ran through my brain, "I want to pray too!" This thought was in stark contrast to how I've felt recently. So I parked and joined the other students, teachers and parents at the pole.

I needed that time of prayer. My soul was refreshed by hearing the prayers of others, by seeing students of all ages participating, and by simply praying. We prayed in small groups and then ended in a communal prayer. It might have been 10 or 15 minutes but it felt longer based on the refreshment it provided.

So while this still seems gimmicky to me, any opportunity for prayer is one that we should all grab and use often. Pray at the pole, pray at your bedside, pray in your car, pray on the train, pray on your bike, pray anywhere. Don't wait for a day or an event, just pray. Pray by yourself or with others, but pray. Pray for your country, your job, your school, your relationships, your children and their (future spouses), tasks you need to accomplish, for opportunities. Pray for wisdom, understanding, discernment, discretion. Pray when you're happy or sad and anything in between. Just pray.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 [NLT]

Did you pray today, at the pole or anywhere?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This Person I've Become - I Weep

I guess I've always had a sensitive side but it was hidden under the many layers of me. I think it initially surprised everyone in my family when as the Matron of Honor at my brother's wedding, there were tears streaming down my face as his bride walked down the aisle. Everyone asked what was wrong with me, including my brother - the groom; I was simply happy because I love love!

This sensitive side started to emerge after I had children. I found myself being sad when my children were sad. Sometimes a tear would fall during a conversation but I'd say it was allergies.

I knew something had definitely changed in me when I found myself crying during movies and at commercials.

I used to cry out of anger but it seems I've gone way beyond that. It seems like almost any emotion is a reason to cry.

So these days I've found myself crying:
When I think of the state of affairs in this crazy world we live in - the uncaringness and hardness of the human heart; I weep.

The resilience of people of who have overcome the unthinkable - I've been reading many stories on the Syrian refugees....all I can say is "My God."  In a similar vein when I see what Black people went through in America and what they continue to go through, I'm astounded; I weep.

When I think about the state of my family - there's sickness, job loss, estrangement and a host of other trials; I weep.

Of course, recently, after completing a run, I found myself losing all composure and crying. Snot falling, loud sobbing and total convulsions as I cried. It came out of nowhere and left in the same manner.

But I also weep when I think about the fact that I am loved, that I am married, that my children are happy, that I have another day to be alive.

I won't ignore my feelings that bring tears to my eyes; instead, I'll let them be, knowing that they provide greater clarity.

.....You have collected all my tears in your bottle.You have recorded each one in your book. 

What makes you weep?